Zoom simultaneous interpretation

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Zoom Video Conferencing for Multilingual Meetings

In the COVID-19 world, an increasing number of events have migrated into digital formats. Virtual events and meetings are nothing new, and online video calls have been commonplace in the business world for years, but the pandemic has increased their frequency. As a professional language interpreter providing both onsite and remote interpreting services, I have experienced this virtual migration first-hand. I have also noticed a predilection for Zoom as the meeting platform of choice for most of my clients, and this is a choice that presents specific advantages and challenges for interpreters.

Advantages of using Zoom

In addition to Zoom, I work with GotoMeeting, Webex, Microsoft Teams, and several other platforms. Still, most of my clients request Zoom meetings. This may stem from the fact that it is a widely known brand, and therefore may be one of the first ones that come to mind. Its recognition also makes it a convenient option, as there is a high chance that most participants of any given event will have at the very least heard of Zoom.

Zoom is also a relatively inexpensive and easy to use option. While there are internet bandwidth requirements, and the quality of the computers and audio equipment used are important factors for the overall quality of the event, overall Zoom events do not require that much preparation, from a set up point of view and participants only need a link to join.

For users of a Business account, it is also possible to use the company’s branding during the event and even send a branded link to participants. Business accounts also have more features, allow for HD events, and for multiple meetings to take place concurrently, all of which help ensure the quality of online events while giving organisers flexibility.

From an interpreter’s point of view, the Language Interpretation feature is a benefit, though it is not available for Basic and Pro account users. This feature allows interpreters to have their own channels from which to work. What this means is that if an event is taking place in Turkish, but certain participants only understand English and others only understand Portuguese, each participant will be able to tune into the interpretation channel of the desired language. The main Turkish-language event will not be disrupted, and the English-speaking participants will not have to listen to the Portuguese interpreting and vice-versa.

This is also why it is important for interpreters to be added to the event in the correct role, otherwise they will appear as participants in the event, such as business partners or panellists.

Challenges of using Zoom

One of the potential challenges for interpreters on Zoom is that the interpreting channels are very limited.

The Zoom interpreting channels are set up in a way that interpreters are unable to hear other interpreters working from other virtual booths. Going back to the Turkish-language event example above, this means that the Portuguese-English interpreters will be unable to select the English simultaneous interpretation provided by the Turkish interpreters when a Turkish speaker takes the floor. Instead, they will only be able to hear the main meeting room where the event is taking place. This makes it impossible for relay interpreting to be carried out on Zoom meetings.

Relay interpreting means that certain interpreters do not translate directly from the original speaker, but instead translate from another interpreter’s translation. Let’s say that our Turkish-language event was also attended by Finnish-speaking participants, but the Finnish interpreters understood English, but not Turkish, the main language of the event. In this case, relay interpretation could be carried out, with the Finnish interpreters translating the words from the English-Turkish interpreters. On Zoom, this is impossible.

Though not Zoom-specific, it is relevant to point out that remote interpreting is much more demanding of interpreters than on-site interpreting. Online interpreting requires much more focus and multitasking skills from the interpreter, who also needs to continue interpreting the event smoothly even if there are technology related issues which cause audio or video to lag, cut, or freeze.


One of the reasons it is important to understand the challenges that interpreting on Zoom can bring is that virtual meetings and events are here to stay. Zoom is currently one of the main players among the virtual meeting platforms and the specific pros and cons of using it for multilingual events are important for both clients and interpreters to understand.

The platform presents a series of challenges, which can all be managed by professional, skilled, and experienced interpreters and teams of interpreters, who are always committed to ensuring your multilingual events are a success. Most importantly, if the platform is the best choice for the client, the best interpreters will adapt to it.

WordlyWise Interpreting provides high-quality translation and interpreting solutions in any language. If you need online interpreting via Zoom or any other platform, our team of highly experienced language professionals are always on hand to help you get your message heard. Request a quote today!